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Silver Creek Fellowship packs 5,000 relief kits

Silver Creek Fellowship. Photo by Melissa Wagoner
Silver Creek Fellowship. Photo by Melissa Wagoner

By Melissa Wagoner

When the wildfires swept through Oregon on Labor Day, Kaiser Permanente immediately leapt into action, contacting the Red Cross and asking how the organization could help. But it wasn’t because it provides health care – though the company’s providers continued that important work throughout the days and weeks following the devastation, even while many of them were evacuated or had experienced loss themselves. Rather, it was because of Kaiser Permanente’s dedication to community care.

“Kaiser Permanente serves this community,” Kimberly Mounts, a spokesperson for the company, confirmed. Adding that there are no less than 600 Kaiser Permanente employees that live in and around the Silverton area. “We’re ensuring that folks are taken care of. It’s part of our mission – hence the rapid response.”

Once contacted by the company, the Oregon Red Cross connected Kaiser Permanente with another institution – Silver Creek Fellowship in Silverton – which was aiding in the creation of an estimated 5,000 wildfire relief kits being shipped across Oregon.

“The wildfire relief kits are going to people in the community who have lost their homes,” Kurt Barnes, a pastor at Silver Creek Fellowship, explained. Listing tarps, hand sanitizer, garbage bags and gloves as the items being packed inside large plastic totes and shipped alongside rakes, shovels and handmade sifters by Red Cross box truck.

“It’s so people can actually sift through the ashes,” he continued. Adding, “A lot of people, when they’re given these kits, that’s the only thing they own. It’s really emotional for them.”

And so, on Sept. 25, despite the pouring rain, eight Kaiser Permanente employees, joined a host of other volunteers in the packing of the last 500 kits.

“I’m really proud of Kaiser for giving me the opportunity to help,” Nichole Powers – an Administrator at the North Lancaster branch, who joined the company nine years ago for precisely this reason – said. “Kaiser is very much about community.”

Which is why, as the work party drew to a close, Dr. Yara Delgado – who lives in Silverton and has delivered countless babies there for the past 12 years, presented Dale Kunce, the Chief Executive Officer for the Cascades Region of the Red Cross, a check for $300,000 to aid in the organization’s wildfire recovery efforts.

“Kaiser wants to extend their hand to the Red Cross and the community,” Dr. Delgado said during her presentation, “to shelter, support and feed those in need.”

But the donation will achieve even more than that, according to Kunce who, when asked what such a sizable sum could do during a crisis like the current one said, “It means a lot. But what it buys – that’s very difficult.”

Because, Kunce went on to explain, while big donations, like Kaiser Permanente’s are incredibly important, even the smallest donations – like the $400 check he recently received from a woman who had herself been helped by the Red Cross and wanted to pay the kindness forward – are significant.

“Even $10,” Kunce stressed. “It buys a lot of hope.”

Indeed, money is only a portion of the equation, volunteer efforts – like the wildlife relief kit assemblage – and community support are just as critical.

“Your donation and your time spent here today buys an enormous amount of hope,” Kunce said in his heartfelt address to the volunteers. “It’s a virtual hug in the time of COVID.”

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